I’ve spent the last two days on an Impact Leadership course with eight other incredible women. It wasn’t really a ‘course’ but more of an awakening experience into my leadership style and getting some pretty honest feedback!

While it’s still all fresh, I thought I’d jot down some key things I’ve learned:

  1. If you want honest feedback, seek ‘horse feedback.’ Horses don’t talk ‘wishy-washy’ – they’re direct and honest. Brutal. We got to analyse videos of us’ training’ our horses in the arena, and by golly, the horse’s feedback was pure and honest (it was so obvious when you saw it on video!). Clear, truthful, and illuminating. I’d love it if humans could adopt more’ horse feedback’ with each other – it’s so powerful. I’m so grateful to the eight other women and Janine Sudbury for our time together, ‘speaking horse’ with one another.
  2. Body language says so much in relationships. How you read others and how they read you is how you’ll end up interacting or ‘dancing’ together—first impressions matter. At first, I found I was more in ‘panic/survival’ mode (using every muscle I had to try to get this horse not to dart off in another direction down a bank – my body was killing after Day 1!). I wasn’t aware of much else going on around me, and I had tunnel vision. I wasn’t attentive to what the horse was telling me. I was scared. After some time, I learned to read what kind of relationship this horse had with me and his surroundings. I observed what he did with his ears, where his head was angled, and whether he had wrinkles around his eyes. Once he started licking his lips and chewing, I knew we had a better relationship! Take time to observe and notice what’s happening around you and modify your style.
  3. Believe in yourself and trust the process. Yeah, yeah, I realise this sounds like a Hallmark quote. But to honestly believe in yourself is to do so when you’re faced with doubt, fear, and no proof or evidence that you can pull through on something you’ve never done before. You’ve GOT to believe you can do it, don’t give yourself any other option. It takes determination, grit, and commitment to your goal (and you MUST have a plan in mind!). To help with this belief, you need to trust the process you’re about to go through without thinking or dwelling on the timeframe it might take to get there!

When one of the expert horse whisperers helping us in the arena (his name is Hans, he wore a cowboy hat, and he is a horse whisperer!) said to me, “I’ll stay here all night if that’s what it takes.” I gawped on with terror and awe at the idea of him having to stay in that arena for hours on end until we got my horse to do what it was being asked to do (i.e., Task No.1 = get the horse to walk over a tiny bridge).

I watched for ages as he worked on ‘tuning’ my horse, marveling at the skill, calmness, and commitment Hans had and the relationship he and this huge beast were building – one of respect, calm, pressure, and release. I was learning so much by observing Hans tuning the horse (never entirely thinking I was about to have to go through the same process myself – surely if an expert finds this hard, they won’t make me go through the same thing?!).

After Hans got the horse through Task No.1, he handed me my beast and said, “Ok, it’s your turn now.” WHAAAAT?! “Haven’t I learned enough by just watching YOU do this?!” Hans’ voice told me I had no option to back out – it was now my turn. I needed to trust the process and get on with it (even if I had to stay there all night). I tuned into my physical presence (one of the leadership principles we learned in the course). I pulled my imaginary string out of my head, stood tall, told myself, “Antonia, you’ve got this,” breathed a deep breath, and gave a steely-eyed, determined look into my horse’s eyes. My gaze said, “I’m committed, whether you like it or not.”

I’m pleased to say I did it. Phew. What a relief. Task 1 (the tiny bridge) was completed – TICK! I had accepted the challenge, won victoriously, and that was done for the day.


Hans said, “Ok, on to Task No.2 now” (the giant step bridge). WHAAAAT?!

And so it goes on. When you think you’ve succeeded and the job is done, another big hurdle gets presented to you.

Yet I did it. I DID IT!

My horse was pretty ‘wild,’ energetic, stubborn, incredibly powerful, and strong (and he seemed SO HUGE it was intimidating!), and I genuinely didn’t think I’d be able to pull through with the four tasks that had been set out for us in the arena. Yet I did it. I DID IT!

Most of the rest of the group had completed all the tasks within the first two hours and were waiting for a couple of us to finish. Don’t compare yourself to others, Antonia. This is your journey, your process. Be proud of what you’ve just achieved. To believe in yourself takes courage.

When I first met this horse, he completely terrified me. Something that scares you that you’d stay well clear of in ‘real life’ can end up being quite soft on the inside when you face this fear. Look at the photo of us two above (at the end of Day 2). This horse (who didn’t even let my face come near him, to begin with) is now cuddling me! (and yes, those are beads of sweat on my face!).

So, how does this all relate to coaching?

Well, it’s much like riding a horse. At first, the space may be unfamiliar, and the words might not be part of your everyday jargon. And that’s ok. The saddle might fit a little strange, and you might feel mentally exhausted by the end of the first day. But let’s fast forward. The next session, you’re more comfortable, the saddle fits a bit nicer, and you can articulate your wants and outcomes. We work together and trust in the process, each day more confident than the last. You start at a walk, then a trot and a canter, and suddenly it is a fantastic Gallup of inspiration and motivation. When challenges arise, you can adapt to your surroundings and within yourself. 

One of the questions I often get asked is: “What is coaching all about?” which is usually followed by “how does it differ from mentoring, advice, or counseling?” 

A helpful (and rather simplistic!) way that I like to describe the difference between coaching versus other disciplines is using this bike riding metaphor:

  • Counseling: when did you get hurt on your bike, and how did it make you feel?
  • Mentoring: this is how I ride a bike and do what I do.
  • Consulting: This is wrong with your bike riding. Follow my recommendations for improvement.
  • Coaching: Where do you want to go?

A coach is someone you can springboard ideas off and who can provide you with valuable tools and strategies to help get you to where you want to be.

Every coach has different styles and different methods or ways of coaching. Finding the ‘right fit coach for you is crucial, so make sure you shop around (and hire someone with a coaching certification!).

I’m certified with Gallup as an accredited CliftonStrengths coach. You can find out more about my style of coaching here.

I help ignite potential in others so that they can make more of a positive impact in their life and work. My clients build awareness and appreciation of their talents and how to apply these to achieve their goals. You can read more about what my clients have said about the impact coaching has had on their worlds.

In essence, a coach’s primary purpose is to stimulate, motivate and facilitate an individual’s growth, development and performance. Coaching is a non-therapeutic intervention (so it’s not like counseling). Everything discussed in coaching sessions is strictly confidential. It doesn’t go any further (subject to certain exemptions regarding the safety of yourself and others). Still, I encourage all my clients to share their insights with their managers or colleagues. 

And lastly, I believe that every coach needs their coach! I have monthly sessions with my coach, Christopher Miller. The time and investment have been so worth it in developing and tuning my practice and performance to focus on what I do best, love most, and what others value most in me. I’m so grateful for this.